My Point of View: What’s in it for him — the common question for Trump

Published 6:42 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2020

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My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson


“I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”

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Trump reportedly made this callous remark to retired four-star general and his former chief of staff John Kelly, the father of a fallen soldier, while standing at Kelly’s son’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Trump’s ego is so broken that he can’t grasp any higher calling beyond self-gratification. The same article in The Atlantic this past week revealed that Trump has called Americans who died in WWI “losers” and “suckers.”

Trump’s impudent remarks about the 1,800 fallen soldiers interred at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, which he was scheduled to visit for a centennial commemoration of the end of WWI, were partially due to his anxiety about his hairstyle’s ability to withstand the rainy weather.

My great-grandfather’s youngest brother Willy died in action on the first day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Over 26,000 Americans died in this nearly two-month siege that lasted until Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1918.

Private William Ressemann of Minnesota does not have a gravesite. He is listed on the “Tablets of the Missing” at Saint Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial in Lorraine, France.

Imagine being so emotionally stunted that one focuses on high-maintenance hair sculpture instead of the overwhelming collective sacrifice of thousands of young men who did not return home, represented by endless rows of white crosses at these cemeteries.

We already knew before this how Trump felt about POWs from his remarks on John McCain in July of 2015. Trump publicly stated, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

McCain was a POW for over five years in Vietnam, two of which he spent in solitary confinement. During the time McCain was being repeatedly tortured, Trump was trying to avoid catching sexually transmitted infections in Manhattan, which he later bragged was his “personal Vietnam” on Howard Stern’s radio show.

Again, self-gratification is the highest calling Trump knows. The POW/MIA flag is a common sight around here, and Trump has veritably trampled on it in the most crass way possible.

Trump’s disdain for veterans who are captured, injured or killed may arise from his fear that they make him look weak and cowardly. One of his five deferments for the Vietnam draft was due to a supposed bone spurs. Testifying before Congress last year, Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen stated that Trump directed him not to answer specific questions about it. According to Cohen, Trump told him, “You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.”

Were people who went to Vietnam stupid?

My dad went to Vietnam. He didn’t have college deferments like Trump. His dad died when he was in grade school, and he was the youngest child in a large farm family. He enlisted in the Army — at a time when hundreds of young American men were dying in Vietnam each week — so he could pay for college.

To somebody like Trump who was born rich, maybe that looks stupid. To my dad, it was a path to the American dream by way of service.

Like me, most people around here are close to somebody who served in the military. Many have themselves served the U.S. in uniform. Many have lost somebody they know in military service and carry that loss throughout their lives.

Albert Lea has an active American Legion post downtown, named after Leo Carey, a local man who enlisted in the Navy in WWI and died at the radio controls of the USS Tyler after it was torpedoed by a German U-boat.

This town honors service and sacrifice. Why would it support a candidate who has crudely shown so many times that he does not share this value?

Trump is leading a breakdown in respect for anything other than self indulgence, and his boorishness rubs off on people around him. His campaign heckled his opponent Joe Biden for not talking to a reporter who called to him among the headstones outside of St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church on Sunday.  Francis Brennan, director of strategic response for the Trump campaign, tweeted that Biden kept “meandering along.”

Biden waved to the reporter with a rolled up church bulletin in his hand, but continued walking to the graves of his first wife Neilia, baby daughter Naomi and son Beau, a bronze star recipient from his military service in Iraq.

At about the same time Trump’s campaign was ridiculing Biden in a churchyard cemetery, Trump was once again nowhere near a church but out on one of his golf courses, directing more taxpayer money toward his personal businesses with his 278th visit to a Trump property during his presidency.

The ultimate question for Trump is always, “What is in it for me?”

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.